A doctor specializing in respiratory medicine testified in court Thursday that George Floyd died of asphyxia as a result of being handcuffed facedown on the street with former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on him.
Dr. Martin Tobin, who works in the intensive care unit at Hines VA Hospital in Illinois and has studied respiratory physiology for 40 years, said Floyd died of a “low level of oxygen,” also known as asphyxia or hypoxia.
“This caused damage to his brain,” Tobin testified, “and it also caused a [pulseless electrical activity] arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop.”
Floyd’s low oxygen level was caused by “shallow breathing” due to his being handcuffed in the prone position against the pavement as Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck as well as his back and side, according to Tobin.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 8, 2021
Dr. Tobin, a physician who is a renowned expert on pulmonology testifies that George Floyd died of a low level of oxygen.
The shallow breathing resulted from Floyd being prone on the street and handcuffed, with a knee on his neck and back and an arm at his side, he says pic.twitter.com/3EbiCXXFyV
Floyd was being “squashed” between the hard ground and the officers as they pushed his handcuffs high into his back, Tobin says. Such actions would “totally interfere with central features of how we breathe,” he added.
“It’s like the left side is in a vise,” Tobin testified. “It’s totally been pushed in, squeezed in from each side, from the street at the bottom and from the way that the handcuffs are manipulated.”
“It’s as if a surgeon has gone in and removed the lung ― not quite, but along those lines,” Tobin added. “Very little opportunity for him to be able to get any air to move into the left side of his chest.”
Tobin gave his assessment to the court on the ninth day of witness testimony in Chauvin’s trial. Chauvin has been charged with second- and third-degree murder as well as manslaughter in Floyd’s death. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Tobin testified Thursday that Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck prevented air from getting through the hypopharynx, a hollow tube that passes food, water and air through the bottom of throat.
“When you have to breathe through a narrow passageway, it’s like breathing through a drinking straw, but it’s much worse than that,” Tobin said.
Tobin’s testimony undercut the defense’s argument that drug use ― not Chauvin’s actions ― played a major role in Floyd’s death.
The doctor who treated Floyd the night he died in May 2020 testified on Monday. He said that given the information he had at the time of Floyd’s death, that he believed Floyd “likely” died of asphyxia.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost's next chapter